$1 million lead poisoning claim heading to civil trial

Glencore's Mount Isa Mine is facing a compensation claim of $1 million over alleged lead poisoning, after the miner lost the right to have the case thrown out. 

Mount Isa mum Sharlene Body launched the legal action against Xstrata, Mount Isa City Council and the Queensland Government in 2011 after finding out her son Sidney recorded blood lead levels three times more than the recommended safe limit.

She claims the lead exposure resulted in brain damage and damage of neuropsychological functions.

There are complaints the Mount Isa mining and smelting operations caused lead to be released into the atmosphere, which could have been affected children in the vicinity.

Last year the Supreme Court said there was not enough evidence to support the claim that the mine caused Sidney Body’s health issues.

Justice Boddice said there was insufficient proof Sidney’s absorption of lead due to Xstrata’s mining activities was the cause of his health problems.

He said Sidney’s lead absorption could be from other sources of contamination rather than mining at Mount Isa.

However the Queensland Court of Appeal has overturned that ruling and the matter is will now head for a civil trial, with a date yet to be determined.

A scientific study appearing in the journal Environmental Pollution last year found a definitive link between mining in Mount Isa and lead contamination in local children.

Co-author Professor Mark Taylor said air quality standards have not been properly defined.

“They do meet lead-in-air guidelines but averaged over a year…it doesn’t take into account short-term emissions across the town,” Taylor told the ABC.

“It’s those short-term emissions that dose the town with lead, and blanketed the residential areas that then later exposed the children.”

Xstrata, which has since been bought out by Glencore,have always said lead contamination in the city occurs naturally due to what is in the ground.

At the time Taylor’s report was published, Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady said he was sceptical.

“We should not dismiss anything at all – but before people start getting excited they should understand and realise where this gentleman is coming from,” he said.

“This gentleman has a history over many many years of furnishing similar reports to the one that he’s done now.”

Glencore said it cannot comment on a matter that is before the courts.